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Myths and Facts About Epidural Steroid Injections for Managing Your Back Pain

Nov 09, 2021

One of the most common types of pain in America is back pain. Close to 65 million Americans have experienced this problem recently, and about 16 million of them live with chronic back pain that limits their everyday activities.

There are various ways to find relief, and what works for one person may not work for the next. One of the biggest areas of confusion for people is the topic of epidural steroid injections designed to relieve your back pain.

At Florida Pain Management Institute, our expert team offers complete spine and orthopedic treatment. Based on our years of experience, here are a few truths to clear up some common myths regarding epidural spinal injections.

MYTH: Every epidural is the same

The term epidural probably sounds familiar in the context of pregnancy; some women receive them to help manage the pain during childbirth. The type of epidural used to manage back pain, however, is not the same.

The process of administering these two treatments is similar — medications are delivered into the space around your spinal cord. However, the medications themselves vary significantly. Both include powerful pain relievers, but epidural injections to relieve neck or back pain also contain a corticosteroid to decrease inflammation. 

Another difference is that epidural steroid injections used for neck or back pain usually require digital x-ray guidance (with a fluoroscopy machine) to ensure the exact placement of the epidural needle.

MYTH: Epidural steroid injections are invasive

Getting an epidural steroid injection does not involve incisions, which makes it a minimally invasive procedure. However, such injections do involve needles, so you may receive intravenous (IV) medications to keep you relaxed throughout the process. In most cases, though, IV medications are not necessary because local anesthesia (such as Lidocaine given at the location of the injection) keeps you from experiencing pain at the injection site.

When it’s time for your epidural steroid injection, you’ll lie face down on the table. Your doctor will then use the “moving x-ray machine” (fluoroscopy) to find the exact best spot to insert the epidural needle

He will then inject the appropriate corticosteroid and local anesthetic. Once the numbing medication is in place, the doctor will insert the epidural needle, guide it into the correct position, and slowly inject the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications.

After this minimally invasive procedure is over, the team will monitor you for 30-60 minutes, and then you’ll be free to go home. You can usually resume your regular routine the next day.

MYTH: Epidurals steroid injections relieve all neck or back pain

While epidural steroid injections are a powerful tool for relieving neck or back pain, they aren’t a magic cure that automatically works for everyone. The idea behind the epidurals is to deliver medication directly to the spinal nerves that are causing your symptoms. These nerves can be affected by:

  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Cysts

This is also why epidural steroid injections provide different amounts of relief to patients. Everyone’s body is different, and while corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that have the potential to provide long-lasting relief, results do vary from person to person.

With most cases, patients experience at least enough symptom relief to resume their regular activities. If they do more intensive physical therapy leading to increased stabilization and healing, the relief may last longer.

To find out more about epidural steroid injections, contact Florida Pain Management Institute by calling our office or using our convenient online appointment request form. Relief may be closer than you think!